STALYBRIDGE can become a destination for food lovers if a proposal to convert the old market hall gets the go ahead.
That is the view of Cllr Liam Billington, the man behind the idea.
The Stalybridge South representative has long said the building on Trinity Street should become a hub for foodies and businesses, much like Altrincham Market Hall and Mackie Mayor in Manchester city centre.
Now Tameside Council is going to put it to public consultation, as part of the Stalybridge Town Centre Challenge, after a petition was launched.
Cllr Billington, who believes his idea is closer to becoming reality, said: “It’s a promising development and I’m very happy about it. It’s a step forward.
“I’ve wanted something like this to be housed in the old market hall for a long time and I launched a campaign to make it happen and it got people talking about it.
“And, thankfully, the Council appears to have listened.”
The market hall has been empty for several years but still hosts market events and the Tameside Beer Festival.
Cllr Billington believes the model of Altrincham and Mackie Mayor, which sees business around the outside and long tables in the middle, can be easily followed in Stalybridge and even improved on.
He added: “Many people have said that we need to get more quality in the town and also some good professional employment into the area.
“That’s what I’d look to do and I’d imagine this consultation will be an initial one. However, I’m quite excited about it.
“We need something like Altrincham Market and Mackie Mayor in Stalybridge. If we get it, people would come to the town a lot more.
“I had a resident tell me, ‘If they were to do something like that, I’d be looking to set up a business.’
“She has a stall at Altrincham Market and she’d look to do it in Stalybridge rather than travel to Altrincham.
“There are people in Stalybridge who want the town to move forward. We know what we need to do and we could add something unique to it.
“There are plenty of good food businesses based in the area but what Stalybridge Market Hall does have is the ability to open up over two floors, so food businesses can operate alongside others.”
Cllr Billington believes there will be a food festival alongside the town’s Christmas lights switch-on this year and also hopes to get different markets operating in Stalybridge on Sundays before any decision over the hall is taken.
But he believes turning the market into a destination can help bring more resources into the area and promote what already lies within it.
He added: “We keep being told we haven’t got the money in Stalybridge but look at areas like Mottram Rise, Carrbrook, Heyrod and Mottram, there’s wealth there.
“And with regards to the market hall, well we’ve got to get something in it on a regular basis.
“Look at Altrincham Market and Mackie Mayor and the amount of people who just go in on a Friday or a Saturday.
“It could also become a place where apprentices get their chance to show off their skills. Tameside College has some great food courses and facilities.
“Also, look at what Altrincham Market has done for the area around it. In the past it was a bit run down, now it has brought loads of redevelopment around it all because of what goes on inside it.”
• The Stalybridge Town Centre Challenge consultation, that includes proposals for Stalybridge Market Hall, will take place on Saturday, October 6 from 11am-3pm.